With the Spring Equinox behind us, soil temperatures are up, days are longer and although the weather has been wet and somewhat erratic, the growing season has started. April is a pivotal month in any garden but when it comes to kitchen gardening, if you don’t keep on top of the many jobs, it is easy to lose the plot (literally).

Late frost can pose a threat anytime up until the end of May so with this in mind, only direct sow robust crops, reserving more delicate seeds for sowing in trays indoors.

Soil Preparation

Before diving straight into sowing and planting, take some time to prepare your soil, if you have not done so already. I’m a no-dig advocate, so instead of turning over soil with a spade, I use a tool called a broad fork to loosen the soil without inverting it.

It is important to remove weeds that have accumulated over winter and follow with a surface layer of well-rotted organic matter such as compost or manure. No need to dig these in as the macro and micro-organisms will do this job instead. This method of bed preparation preserves soil structure and replenishes nutrients. Minimum disturbance also reduces the amount of weed seeds being exposed to light, hence reducing the weed burden in the months ahead.

Plant Some Spuds

Planting potatoes is traditionally associated with St Patrick’s Day but this totally depends on local weather and soil conditions. Generally planting spuds from now onwards is most straightforward. Cheap to buy and readily available, some may say that potatoes do not earn their keep in a kitchen garden.

However, if you have the space, it’s worth sticking in a few ‘earlies’ at least, as nothing quite compares to their quintessential fresh-dug flavor. From heirloom to modern bred blight resistant varieties, waxy to floury, white, red, purple and pink skinned, there is enough choice of potato varieties to suit every palate and culinary purpose.

Seed sowing indoors

Only a few sturdier seeded crops such as broad beans and peas and onion/shallots (from sets) are worth sowing direct in April. Instead, it is a prime time for sowing seeds in trays that will be ready for planting out next month. Most crops take about 4 – 5 weeks from sowing to being large enough to transplant. Always use fresh good quality seed compost for sowing in trays/cells.

Match the size of your seed to the size of the tray and plan for additional heat to boost germination. A heated mat is ideal but a sunny window sill will do the same job. Rotate seedlings to allow even access to light and pot on accordingly. Bear in mind the ultimate spacing of plants when sowing. It is easy to germinate 50 Brussels sprout seedlings, but at nearly 1m spacing required between plants, not so easy to find space to grow them on.

Potted plants will need gradual hardening-off by exposing them to outdoor conditions for a few hours each day before transplanting permanently next month.

Some crops that can be sown now for transplanting in May include: Brussels sprouts, cabbage, calabrese, cauliflower, celery, celeriac, chard, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, perpetual spinach, spring onions, sweetcorn, turnip, winter leeks. Sow a few annual flowers such as amaranth, cornflowers, cosmos, French marigold and sunflowers for extra colour.


As temperatures rise, so does the activity levels of pests and disease. Hand-pick slugs and feed to hens or scatter wild for birds to eat. Don’t overact if you see aphids as these will provide an early food source for ladybirds. Rubbing them off or a blast of a hose will help keep numbers in check and always remember the main aim with garden pests is just to keep them in check without harming beneficial insects.

Keep a close watch also for any signs of disease or nutrient deficiencies. Common issues to watch out for now include rust on overwintering alliums and yellowing leaves. Promptly address any issues before they spread. Removing infected leaves and applying a foliar feed of seaweed provides a good all round tonic for plants to help boost immunity and prevent further spread.

Mulch and Water

Mulching is essential for retaining soil moisture and suppressing weeds in your garden beds. Apply a layer of organic mulch, such as straw, hay, seaweed, grass clipping or shredded leaves to any bare patches of ground and around plants to help conserve moisture and regulate soil temperature. Be sure to water before you mulch if the ground is dry. A rule for watering is to always give beds a good soaking once or twice a week rather than a light watering every day

Support Climbing Plants

If you’re growing climbing vegetables like peas or beans outside, now is the time to get supports in place. Install trellises, tepees and stakes with wire or biodegradable twine to help guide their upward growth and prevent sprawling. This not only maximizes space in your garden but also promotes better air circulation and ease of harvest.

Sit Still and Savour

Don’t forget to take a moment to simply enjoy the evolution of your space. Keep a diary, take some photos, your later season self will thank you. Growing your own food provides nourishment on all levels and is such a beautiful way of actively connecting with the rhythms of nature.

So don’t forget to sit still, revel in every little detail and savour the sights, sounds, and smells of your kitchen garden as it comes to life.

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